Sunday, August 22, 2010

Southern Africa Wrap-Up

Pictures, they say, are worth a thousand words. In five weeks, I took over three thousand photographs. The major headings below are links to six photo albums, which include 375 total photos, along with snippets to describe what you will and will not find in each album. That saves you approximately 2,600 photos and three million words.

I spent two and a half weeks in Durban, South Africa, helping to conduct leadership training with high school students, through a study abroad program with Wright State University. You will see a thriving coastal city, a week or two removed from hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup. You will see informal settlements, substandard housing where many students participating in our leadership training lived. Unfortunately, the photos do not allow you to hear the breathtaking, surround-sound chorus of 1,200 students from these informal settlements, singing to welcome us to their school.

Game Parks near Pietermaritzburg
After two and a half weeks of conducting leadership training in Durban, the Wright State crew spent an afternoon visiting two game parks. You will see photos of animals. You will not see me petting any of these animals. You will see one hippo, but not a hungry, hungry hippo. That came later.

Greater Cape Town Area
I visited South African friends, whom I knew from living and working in North Africa for five years. You will see an area of tremendous biodiversity. You will see Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. You will see photos of whales, but not the double back-flips they performed as I snapped their photos – you will just have to imagine that part.

For years, I have wanted to visit Lesotho, a rural, mountainous country, completely landlocked by South Africa. You will see her countryside and her people. You will not see the awe-inspiring night sky of the Southern Hemisphere, unadulterated by light pollution found in less remote areas. You also will not see the full toll of HIV and AIDS on the country. I visited people who help to care for orphans and vulnerable children. Some of these children are eleven or twelve years old and are the oldest members of their households. Some of these children receive only four meals each week.

This was not part of my original itinerary, but it was a sweet bonus, a blessing from friends who live in Johannesburg. You will see photos of hungry, hungry hippos. You will not see pink, green or plastic hippos, nor will you see white, edible marbles. You will see a pretty butterfly, though.

I visited friends, one of whom worked with me several years earlier. You will see photos of Soccer City, the stadium used for the 2010 FIFA World Cup Final. We drove by Soccer City after visiting the Apartheid Museum, which you will not see in these photos. I planned to stay longer in Jo’burg, but Swaziland came calling instead.

I struggle to understand why the Lord has blessed me so much – good health, plenty of food to eat and living parents who love me. On more than one occasion, Africans expressed deep gratitude at having me, a white American, visit their villages and homes. It felt completely backward.

Grace is backward. God blesses us, despite our unworthiness, despite our expectations. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. He puts a song on the lips of the destitute, and causes stars to shine brightest in the darkest nights. He makes His face to shine upon even me.

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